After crossing into Argentina at the Paso Hua Hum border crossing, we were in the Argentinian lake district, and it seemed like a relaxed place where people stop along the road for a chat. From here it was just a short drive to San Martin de los Andes where we stopped by the tourist office to ask about campgrounds. We are probably of the first tourists to arrive for the summer season which starts in December…, and most campgrounds are still closed. But halfway on the “camino de los Siete Lagos” – “road of the seven lakes” - at Lago Villarino, one camping area without facilities should be open for camping.
Driving south from San Martin de los Andes we started to notice a lot of grey dust along the road, and suddenly we realized it was not just along the road, but all over, kilometer after kilometer. After some time we understood that it must be ash from a volcano eruption. The further south we got the ash layer became thicker. At Lago Falkner, the campground with facilities was still closed, but they were working on removing the ash from the camping area.
We found our spot for the night at Lago Villarino, and we were careful to clean our shoes for ash before climbing into the tent that night. It was a beautiful location for a camp site, and we enjoyed a slow morning with breakfast and reading our books.
Leaving Lago Villarino the weather was perfect with clear blue sky and sun, but the closer we got to Villa La Angostura we drove into a strange grey “cloudy” fog. In some places it looked like it was winter, with snow and berms along the road, but it was just more ash….
Getting closer to town we could see how they were working on moving all the ash. People were working with spades and brushes in places where they could not use machines, and then the trucks came in, got filled up, and then drove out of town somewhere to dump the ash.
I guess I have seen images like these in newspapers and on TV before, but like always its different to see it with your own eyes. At the tourist information we learned that the ash came from the Vulcan Puyehue in Chile that erupted on the 5th of July, more than four months ago.
We had a desperate need to do laundry and get online again, and while looking at campgrounds (that did not really look that tempting with all the ash) we got a good offer for a one room apartment. It was great to live indoors again for four full days, and we spent most of the time in Villa La Angostura inside the apartment.
Through our windows we could not see any of the surrounding mountains on Saturday because it rained the whole day, but on Sunday it was a clear day and we had excellent views to the mountains. When we were leaving on Monday the strange grey “cloud” was back again. We wondered if the “cloud” reappeared on Monday when they started to move all the ash again. The cloud covered a huge area until south of San Carlos de Bariloche.
San Carlos de Bariloche did not look so nice as it was under a grey cloud, so we just stopped for lunch at the lake and quickly drove through the city. In El Bolson the sun was shining and we found a campground where we camped under blooming apple trees. It felt like spring at home. Before entering Argentina again we had decided to eat a proper Argentinian beef before going back to Chile.
With recommendations from our camp host we had a great dinner that left us wondering why we are never able to find beef this tender in Norway even if you buy the most expensive meat you can find. We still don’t know. The plan was to leave the next day, but I had enjoyed a bit too much red vine the day before, so it was an easy decision to make to spend another day reading books under the apple trees.
It also gave us the opportunity for a BBQ dinner with more good meat.
The next morning we were ready to leave Argentina and find our way to Carretera Austral.